by Tanni Haas, Ph.D.

While schools are closed and families are adjusting to social distancing, it’s time to begin making contingency plans for what to do with the kids if you must keep them home for a prolonged period of time. Below are five activities that can keep your family entertained without requiring anyone to leave the house. They are a great way to take a break from at home class work and enjoy this time you have with your family.

Look At Photos

We all take them, on vacation and during the course of our daily lives, but how often do we actually lean back in the couch, with a hot cup of chocolate, and look and laugh and reminisce together. I’m thinking, of course, of family photos. There really is nothing like looking at photos of vacations from long ago or funny, everyday situations that you’ve experienced together as a family. If you’re really ambitious, and just happen to have some empty picture frames lying round, another great activity is to frame your favorite shots and put them in different places around the house.

Play A Game

No matter how sophisticated your kids’ electronic games are, it doesn’t compare to sitting together as a family and playing an old-fashioned board game. A perennial favorite that’s going to leave everyone in stiches is Charades, which also can be played with family and friends via FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. Take an inventory of your board games, write the name of each game on a small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a bowl; then take turns picking from the bowl to decide which game you will play next. If you’re adventurous, bring out some paper, markers, and whatever other art supplies you have lying around and design your own board game. That will surely get everyone’s creative juices flowing.

Listen To Music

Most people walk around all day, in their private worlds, with music streaming into their ears. But how about taking out those ear phones and sharing the music with the rest of the family. One great way to do that is to gather around a computer and take turns selecting your favorite songs on YouTube. It’s incredible what musical journeys that can lead you on. And who knows: your kids’ – and your own – musical horizons may just expand in ways you didn’t realize was possible. If you happen to have a karaoke machine, put in some new batteries and turn it on. I don’t need to explain how much fun that can be.

Cook A Meal

Few things bring a family together like cooking a meal. It’s active, fun, everyone can participate, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors in the end. To make the whole process as exciting as possible, try one of both of these suggestions. Agree that you can only cook with what you already have in the kitchen. That shouldn’t be too difficult. If your family is large enough, divide yourself up into two teams responsible for different parts of the meal: appetizer, main course, dessert, and drinks. Take turns in the kitchen and don’t reveal to the other team what you’ve been preparing. That makes sitting down to eat so much more surprising and fun.

Do Some Gymnastics

Staying inside all day can make everyone feel a little bit stiff in the limbs and in need of some movement. If that happens, get off the couch and onto the rug (or backyard) and do some good old-fashioned gymnastics together. There’s nothing as invigorating as moving your bodies together. If one of you knows how to do yoga, this is a great chance to teach the rest of the family some of your favorite poses.

Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

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